Bishops to take up 'revised responsibilities'

Two Catholic bishops whose resignations over a child sex abuse report were rejected by the Vatican will still be able to administer Confirmation, it emerged today.

Two Catholic bishops whose resignations over a child sex abuse report were rejected by the Vatican will still be able to administer Confirmation, it emerged today.

Auxiliary Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field will be assigned revised responsibilities in Dublin despite offering to stand down on Christmas Eve in the wake of a damning state inquiry.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has written to priests across the capital informing them Pope Benedict XVI had not accepted the pair’s decision to quit.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church confirmed both would remain as auxiliary bishops with new duties.

“This means that they will be available to administer confirmation in any part of the diocese (Dublin) in the coming year,” he added.

While a spokeswoman for Archbishop Martin confirmed the contents of the letter, the Vatican has not commented on the decision.

The Murphy inquiry, based on a sample 46 priests, revealed a catalogue of paedophilia and subsequent cover-ups over three decades because the Catholic hierarchy was obsessed with secrecy and was effectively granted immunity by the police.

A damaging rift appeared in the Catholic hierarchy as Archbishop Martin - who had opened secret church files to investigators – publicly called on clergy implicated in the state inquiry to step down.

Bishops Walsh and Field finally bowed to weeks of intense criticism and pressure on Christmas Eve, announcing at midnight mass services that they planned to quit their posts as auxiliaries in the archdiocese.

Andrew Madden, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse, said the Vatican’s final response came as no surprise.

“Since the Murphy Report was published, the Catholic Church in Ireland and at Vatican level have failed to take responsibility for the findings of that report, in particular the finding that sexual abuse of children by priests was covered up by Archbishops and Bishops for decades,” said Mr Madden.

“We have also seen attempts by church leaders to blame others for what they refer to as ’the scandal’ including blaming gay men, the loss of faith, secularism and even the children themselves.”

Dr Walsh has been an auxiliary bishop in Dublin since 1990. Before that, he was secretary to the Archbishop of Dublin from 1985 and would have held key positions in the archdiocese for much of the period covered by the Murphy commission report.

Meanwhile, Dr Field, a qualified barrister and auxiliary bishop in Dublin since 1997, was found not to have fully informed a parish priest about abuse concerns against a colleague.

Mr Madden, the first victim to break the silence on clerical abuse, maintained both Pope Benedict and Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, had failed to protect children from priests they knew to be abusers.

“In both cases, those priests went on to abuse more children – in that context today’s announcement should come as no surprise to anyone,” he continued.

Mr Madden said the decisions also showed how utterly meaningless the instruction that Pope Benedict gave to Irish Bishops was – in the Papal Letter to Irish Catholics – to identify steps that would bring healing to victims of clerical child sexual abuse.

“Victims asked for those who were part of the governance of the Archdiocese when sexual abuse was being covered up to resign, and this is ignored,” he added.

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